Fire-sizzled, perfectly crusty outside and pink inside -- there is nothing like a giant steak. This one is done in a Mediterranean style, ardently cooked over wood charcoal, carved into thick slices, and then reassembled, as if a puzzle, on a platter around the bone.
We gild the lily in this version by bathing the cooked steak in olive oil with a sprinkle of bright gremolata made with our preserved lemon.
A Porterhouse is the cut to track down. It’s a workhorse of a steak, a slab of beef that is both a top strip sirloin and a tenderloin all in one. For half the price of a Porterhouse, but with little loss of flavor, substitute a thick-cut flat iron steak.
Cook to Cook: We learned a surprising trick for keeping steak at its tender best from food scientist Harold McGee. Hal posits that we forget that it takes time for heat to move inward from the surface to the center of whatever we’re cooking.
To embrace that, we need to cook with more than one level of heat. He suggests starting with cold meat and a high temperature to brown it and then switching to very low heat to gently finish cooking the interior, and flipping the meat often to ensure even cooking. This is sound advice that makes sense, whether you are working with a grill or on a stovetop.
Serve the steaks as soon as they’ve been sliced.
Wine: This dish needs a red with plenty of acidity to work with the citrus from the preserved lemon. A Xinomavro from Northern Greece or a Barolo or Barbaresco from Italy would be best, but if these prove too pricey or hard to find, a wine from any of the Chianti districts will do very nicely.
1 Moroccan Preserved Lemon, or the grated zest of half a large lemon
1/2 tightly packed cup of flat-leaf parsley
3 large garlic cloves
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, or to taste
1/2 cup good tasting extra-virgin olive oil
2 chilled Porterhouse steaks (about 2 pounds each), cut 2-1/2 to 3 inches thick
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Make the gremolata by first trimming away the pulp of the preserved lemon (if using) and rinsing the rind. Then chop together by hand (food processors don’t get the right texture) the preserved lemon or fresh zest, the parsley, garlic and pepper. Squeeze some fresh lemon juice over the top to taste. Pour the olive oil onto the bottom of a shallow platter large enough to hold the cooked steak. Stir half of the gremolata into the olive oil, and reserve the remaining.
2. Set up a grill for two-zone grilling.
3. Generously season the steaks with salt and pepper. Brush oil on the grate and grill the steaks over high heat, about 2 minutes per side until nicely charred. Take care not to move them too much in this initial sear. Move them to the lower level of fire and continue cooking, turning often, until they reach their desired temperature (7 to 10 minutes total per side for rare, or 130ºF. internal temperature; medium rare is 140ºF., and well done around 150ºF.).
4. Remove the steaks from the grill, and immediately dunk them into the olive oil-gremolata bath, turning to coat both sides with the mixture. Let the steaks rest for 5 to 10 minutes.
5. To carve and serve, remove the meat from the platter and place on a cutting board. Cut the tenderloin and top loin off the bone in two separate pieces. Slice each piece across the grain into 1/2-inch-thick slices and reassemble them around their respective bones. Spoon the oil over the top of the slices, and drizzle the remaining gremolata over the meat.
6. If cooking the steaks at the stove, preheat the oven to 325ºF. Use olive oil to film the bottom of a 12-inch straight-sided sauté pan with a heat-proof handle. Heat the pan over high heat. Season the steaks and add them to the pan. Brown on both sides, then slip the pan into the oven. Rare steaks will take about 15 to 20 minutes, medium close to 30 minutes. Check the steaks with an instant-reading thermometer. Continue with the directions, starting at step 4.
From The Splendid Table®'s How to Eat Weekends by Lynne Rossetto Kasper and Sally Swift (Clarkson Potter, 2011), © copyright 2011 American Public Media.
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